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Vickers to Start Third in Cup Season Finale

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Nov. 14, 2003) – Hendrick Motorsports placed all four of its NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams in the top 15 during Friday’s qualifying session at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with rookie Brian Vickers leading the way.

Driving the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet, Vickers qualified third with a speed of 180.729 mph. The 20-year-old has started no worse than fourth in his last four Winston Cup events.

Vickers’ speed was identical to that of Bobby Labonte, who earned the second position by virtue of having more owner points.

“It was a great lap,” Vickers said. “The UAW-Delphi crew did an awesome job in practice, and we tried some things. Some worked, some didn’t, and we made some educated guesses like we did last week and it all worked out.”

Four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon earned a top-five start at Homestead, putting his No. 24 DuPont Chevy on the inside of Row 3 for Sunday’s event after pacing Friday’s pre-qualifying practice session.

“I’m not disappointed with where we are now,” Gordon said. “I’m just disappointed because we were on top of the charts all day and we wanted to back that up.”

In the No. 48 Lowe’s Monte Carlo, Jimmie Johnson picked up the 10th position with a lap of 179.158 mph around the newly configured 1.5-mile oval.

Track officials spearheaded a $10 million facility renovation that added more banking to the racing surface.

“It’s its own race track,” Johnson said following his qualifying run. “This place has changed a lot. There’s a lot of grip in the corners, but you don’t pick that up until about the center of the corner, which is a lot different than a lot of places we go.

“There’s been a lot of thumbs up in the garage.”

Terry Labonte will start on the outside of Row 7 on Sunday after driving his No. 5 Kellogg’s / got milk? Chevrolet to a lap of 178.648 mph.

“I thought we would be a little better than that,” said the two-time Winston Cup champion. “We were a little too tight there, and I tried to run two laps and it was even tighter on the second lap.”

Jamie McMurray earned his first-ever Winston Cup pole on Friday after a 181.111-mph lap.

Sunday’s Winston Cup season finale will be broadcast live from Homestead-Miami Speedway on NBC and MRN Radio beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET.

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